Powerful Durable “power of attorney” (POA) and Health Care Proxy disability planning documents are critical because when you or your spouse become incapacitated they will keep your affairs out of the dreaded Probate Court. They will allow your loved ones “helpers” to make your financial and health care decisions and not some stranger picked from the Court list at the Probate Court. 

If you currently have a Power of Attorney please have it reviewed by a qualified elder law attorney because there has been law changes where the old Power of Attorney law under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 201B was changed and is no longer valid. Also, beware if you rely only on POAs that hospitals provide, or that you have pulled off the Internet, or that you have got from other attorneys who do not focus their practice specifically on elder law. When an emergency arises, the bank or health-care provider may refuse to allow your agent to act – and then the only recourse is to go to court and get a Conservatorship to manage financial matters and a  Guardianship to manage health care matters. These proceedings are emotional and financial headaches that you want to avoid. 

This is definitely not what you want to hear in an emergency. Conservator and Guardianship proceedings cost time and money, they expose your private affairs to the public, and you or your elder can lose control of your independence. Worst case, unfriendly family-members can try to take advantage of a helpless elder, and it can cost tremendous anxiety and expense to defend against that threat.

                                                                                                            

This is why our “Enhanced Elder Law” POAs for financial and health-care matters total around fifty pages. I refer to it as comprehesnive disability planning because most of us will become disabled or incapacitated and proper disability planning is of paramount importance. 

A client came in recently with a health-care POA from another state. She wanted know whether it would do the job for her father. We said emphatically “no.”

–   The document failed to specify the kind of health-care the father would want; and

–   It failed to comply with our state law, meaning that it likely wouldn’t work here; and

–   It failed to protect the father’s agent from liability for a bad decision; and

–   It failed to provide the agent with access to essential medical records; and

–   It even failed to designate who should serve as an agent!

Our health-care documents do much, much more than that. And our financial POAs are so meticulous that we’ll cite just one example: We provide over two pages of detail covering real-estate transactions alone. 

Check your POAs to see whether they do all of the above – and if not, come see us by registering for our next free educational Estate Planning & Elder Law workshop by calling a member of our Elder Law Care Team at 781-871-7526 or email pat@eldrlawcare.com. because seating is limited and we fill up quickly! 

Patrick Kelleher, Esq, teaches free educational elder law workshops at his Learning Center in Hanover, as well as, other locations from Quincy, Braintree and Plymouth. Learn more at www.ElderLawCare.com 

This article is for educational and informational purposes and does not substitute hiring a qualified elder law attorney and does not create an attorney client privilege.